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My Name is Geek

Pong, the first video game I ever saw. It was captivating.

Yes, I’m a geek from way back.  It started with a fascination of all things electronic beginning with my oldest brother’s reel to reel tape recorder. (Yes, I’m really dating myself.)   We all crowded around the first cassette tape deck recording silly voices and bad but funny singing.  No more bulky unspooling reels.

The golden age of arcades began.  It’s funny now but Pong was captivating back in the day.  Games changed to blazing color with the advent of color televisions.  Pac-Man debuted in 1980.  Video games entered its first golden age.  Soon I heard about the astonishing idea of playing games on monitors – at home instead of arcades! 

With breakthroughs in technology, these games entered my home and rested on a table next to a small television that we bought just for gaming.  Two televisions in the house!  That was incredible.  I could now play Bowling and Golf on a relatively compact home console (we sadly opted for Intellivision instead of Atari 2600 in the gaming wars.  However we chose VHS over Betamax in the videotape format war, so we scored there.)   Gaming continued to evolve as I grew up and away from it.  Life got in the way. 

Legend of Zelda. This was state of the art console gaming circa 1990.

Around 1991, my older brother introduced me to a new home console, the Nintendo NES and an amazing new game, The Legend of Zelda.  Instead of performing inane tasks like like chasing balls across a screen, I could follow a high-fantasy adventure story-line and solve puzzles in addition to fighting the usual baddies.  But I didn’t rush out and buy a Nintendo console. I’d fallen head over heels for another emerging high tech – personal computing.  In 1984, my parents gave me an IBM PCjr. (Yes, I again backed the wrong horse; others had gone over to Radio Shack’s TRS-80.)  In college, it was still the day of Fortran, punch cards and mainframes that were perpetually “down” and I was unable to complete my computing assignments.  This dissuaded me from a career in computer science.  The idea that I could now sit down and finagle programs on my own time blew my mind.  But I quickly learned that the PCjr wasn’t a “real” computer (by today’s standards), and cast it aside.  More adulting happened.   But Dear Reader, you know what happened next.  It was the early 1990’s.  I discovered THE INTERNET.  The World Wide Web opened to the public and I wanted in it.  

Thus began one of the most expensive hobbies outside of car collecting.

The PC that started it all for me – the Packard Bell 386.

Developers released software for word processing, data-basing, rudimentary graphics, as well as access to the internet through Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL.  I ran out and purchased a Packard Bell 386 (fondly known as Packard Hell) with a 120MB hard drive and 2MB RAM, and a 5.25 and 3.5 floppy drives.   I cruised the internet at a snail’s pace on a 24 baud modem. It was heaven.  When the 386 reached the end of it’s usefulness, I chucked it for the faster 486.  It too reached it’s upgrade cap (which occurred roughly every two years) so out it went.  Because it cost less to buy the parts than buy a complete computer, I started building my own.  On and on the cycle went of upgrading components and building or buying new computers.  I’ve happily remained on this wheel for over 25 years.  Since manufacturers have miniaturized chips so much and the speed of components have far exceeded the needs of the average user other than a gamer, graphics artist or architect, the turnover time for new computers is much longer. 

But I told you I was a gamer, right? 

The Nintendo Switch Zelda: BotW Edition. Because you can never spend too much money.

For the last month I’ve become enamored over a home console again, the brand spanking new Nintendo Switch and it’s pilot game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Yes, I’ve come full circle.  No, I don’t own it yet.  I’ve been watching other gamers play it on TwitchTV.  Yes, a gamer watching other people game is a thing.  Don’t laugh.  This looks awesome.  You can play it on a television then “switch” instantly to a portable hand held device without missing a step in the game.  Its manufacturer suggested price is $300 but retailers have hiked the price to over $400.  The game is $70.  So this new wave in gaming high tech is expensive which gives me pause. 

But it’s still my latest shiney.

The geek in me is still strong.

 

5 Responses to “My Name is Geek”

  1. Servetus says:

    We were a “tech household” too b/c of dad; we had the Atari and the TRS-80 and the Color Computer as well … those were the days. I really liked that Color Computer, you could make it draw a picture AND play music. Although it was very time consuming to write the programs … I never really caught the gaming bug. But I still find the machines fascinating — infinitely more interesting than cars.

  2. Armitagebesotted says:

    Oh my gosh, the fandom delivers yet again. THANK you for this post which has explained the whole gaming phenomenon, 30 years worth of one chapter of the computer industry, in a three-minute read. I knew nothing, and now I can act like I get it.

  3. Loved the walk down computer games memory lane! I remember pong–we played it on the little BW tv in the kitchen that my Mom won as a door prize at the pharmacy. I liked the obstacle course games, puzzle games, and Pac Man, too. I think my hubby and I still have a cassette games–Atari maybe?–to play when our then child aged niece and nephew came over. Ha!

  4. Esther says:

    Wow, Pong and PacMan! Our household wasn’t that tech, but I do remember those games! Never caught the gaming bug either, other than Solitaire, Tetris and I now like Angry Birds on my Phone. Still, these adventure games do look really good nowadays! I played a very early version of an ‘adventure game’ for a time called ‘Lazy Larry’ where you had to go into rooms and collect objects to get further. I’m still not sure what the end-objective was, but it was fun for a time. 🙂

    • Servetus says:

      I had one called “Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards,” about 1989 or so … wonder if that was the same game? I think it was supposed to just be funny.

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